Government is a dicey word in Delhi. Is it the lieutenant governor or the elected Aam Aadmi Party that governs the capital? The Union home ministry has said it is the lieutenant governor, who has been notified as 'Delhi government' as per the constitutional provisions. The home ministry's latest response to the Arvind Kejriwal government over the controversy has come after 17 bills and legislative proposals, which were cleared by the AAP government, landed on its desk last month for clearance after a year-long tug-of-war.
The home ministry, under Rajnath Singh, is backing its stand with the opinion of the attorney general, first sought in 2000, while interpreting the Constitution to define the term 'Delhi government'. The Kejriwal government, on the other hand, has approached the Supreme Court, which has issued summons to the Centre, over the contentious issue.
While the Centre and the AAP have been at loggerheads ever since the latter came to power last year, their confrontation was renewed after proposed legislations such as the Delhi Netaji Subhash University of Technology Bill and the Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill, 2015, were sent to the home ministry for clearance. The bills define 'government' as the “government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi”. This prompted the home ministry to return the bills, asking for clarifications from the AAP government, while reading out the rulebook to it.
Five of the 17 bills and legislative proposals relate to fourfold hikes in salaries of MLAs and ministers. These might be cleared by the home ministry in a month or two. Besides the salary hike, the MLAs will get a 'constituency allowance' and a system of automatic upgrade of pay annually.
However, Delhiites will have to wait till the year-end for key development initiatives and educational reforms to be rolled out. These include the AAP's pet legislation—the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015—and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (Amendment) Bill, 2015 for rehabilitation of slum dwellers. Incidentally, the JJ clusters are one of the biggest votaries of the AAP government.
The AAP said the Union government was unnecessarily causing delay in clearing the bills and accused it of “dealing in half truths”. “Difference in understanding is fine. But Section 26 of the GNCTD [Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi] Act allows the assembly to pass any bill, which can be sent for the Centre's approval later,” said a top AAP functionary. “The home ministry may have clarifications on some matters, but it can clear the simple bills at least. Why is it lying and dragging its feet deliberately? The chief minister has been asking the home ministry to decide one way or the other.”
Home ministry officials, however, said the average time for any bill to become law after presidential assent is at least six to eight months. “The bills landed on the ministry's desk only in April after the AAP government followed the correct procedures,” said a home ministry official.
Clearance of the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015 might take time as the Centre has sought comments of the judicial, legislative, revenue and personnel departments. Eight other bills, too, have been sent to various Union ministries for their comments. “Delhi is no exception and, like all bills coming from the states, all procedures will be followed and this process takes its own time,” minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told THE WEEK.
Another bill that has hit the wall is the Delhi Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, giving powers of prosecution to VAT officers in crimes related to tax evasion. Lt Governor Najeeb Jung returned the bill, raising questions over the proposed powers of arrest. Jung's intervention has forced the Kejriwal government to reexamine the move.
The BJP has blamed the AAP government's reluctance in adhering to constitutional provisions for the delay in the legislative process. “Not a single bill has become a law till date,” said BJP MLA Vijender Gupta, the leader of opposition. “This clearly shows the arrogance and inexperience of the AAP government, which has been trying to overrule procedures by not taking prior approval of the lieutenant governor and home ministry. They have been busy trying to malign the prime minister's image saying that they are not being allowed to work.”
The AAP government, meanwhile, is planning to put up in public domain its draft bill for full statehood for Delhi. Another confrontation ahead?
PENDING BILLS WITH HOME MINISTRY
* The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2015
* The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015
* Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015
* The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (Amendment) Bill, 2015
* The Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015
* The Minimum Wages (Delhi) Amendment Bill, 2015
* The Code of Criminal Procedure (Delhi) Amendment Bill, 2015
* The Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) (Amendment) Bill, 2015
* The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions (Delhi Amendment) Bill, 2015
BILLS RETURNED FOR CLARIFICATION
* The Delhi Netaji Subhash University of Technology Bill, 2015
* The Delhi (Right of Citizens to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill, 2015
* The Delhi Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2015, was returned by Lt Governor Najeeb Jung for reexamination
* Five legislative proposals relating to salaries of MLAs and ministers are in the process of being cleared by the home ministry